Because good visual design is often mistakenly considered subjective, it’s sometimes difficult for designers to convince stakeholders to accept carefully considered and well thought out aesthetics as delivered. A designer or product manager may find themselves having to endure observers weighing in with their own opinions about the proper design direction, particularly when there isn’t sufficient data to support various visual design decisions. In the worst case scenarios, the most persuasive (i.e. loudest) or the most influential (i.e. most senior) person in the room gets to make the final decisions regarding visual designs. And unfortunately, when visual designs decisions are made through consensus or by uninformed leadership, both the the credibility and usability of the product can be put at risk. From research we know that website credibility is 75% based on the aesthetics and first impressions are 94% based on the design of products. Any negative first impressions can directly and negatively affect users’ task completions, which can in turn, negatively affect the products usability.
Product Reaction Cards
Product Reaction Cards (PRCs) provide a way to validate the aesthetic and emotional appeal of the design with customers. Using the PRCs as part of a Desirability Test can help the team understand if their products aesthetics elicit the desired response from customers. They can also provide insights into better ways to align the product’s design with the customer’s expectations. And by using the PRCs with real customers and target users, the subjective evaluation of designs belongs then rather than a committee or heavy-handed leadership.
The PRCs consist of 118 descriptors (adjectives or adjective phrases) customers choose from that most closely match their personal reactions to the product. The PRCs used as part of a Desirability study have two major benefits:
The first benefit is that customers get to choose from positive neutral and negative reactions. This is important because without prompting for all three, research suggest that participants would overwhelmingly provide only positive feedback.
The second benefit is that customers use from a common vocabulary for describing their reaction to the product. This is important because it makes it easier for the participant to articulate how the product makes them feel and makes it easier to analyze and interpret the data from a customer interview.
While the complete set of reaction cards included 118 descriptors, there are techniques for using a subset of the cards to speed up research time.
Using Product Reaction Cards to validate the aesthetic and emotional appeal of your product has several benefits for both the team and the designer. For the product, using PRC as part of a Desirability Study can increase the credibility of your product, by ensuring the design aligns with your users expectations. It also increases the usability of the product by ensuring a users first impressions help them achieve their desired goals. For the designer, using the PRC provides user data needed to defend design decisions that are often dismissed as subjective.